Civil Engineering and Structures

By Mathis, Paul; Mentzer, Nathan | Children's Technology and Engineering, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Civil Engineering and Structures

Mathis, Paul, Mentzer, Nathan, Children's Technology and Engineering


How do human beings determine where they should live? Many places on this planet are considered extremely harsh and uninhabitable for humans. Yet, humans have gained a foothold in some of the most unlikely places. Places like this could lead you to ask yourself questions like "How could I survive here?" or "What could I build to help support life in an inhospitable landscape?" Humans have been shaping the environment to enhance their survival for thousands of years. The search and development of life-sustaining necessities, such as food, water, and shelter, can be extremely taxing on inhabitants. Civil engineering was developed as a system to create the structures and infrastructure required to make the quality of life better for all of us.


Civil engineering plays a major role in all levels of life, such as landscaping, highways, roadways, sewer systems, water works, urban developments, rural developments, and many other large-scale projects. It is involved with the construction of dams and power stations that provide electricity, water and sewage treatment plants that provide safe drinking water, and the paths and roads we use to travel to and from work. Civil engineers are also stewards of the environment. They help by planning different ways to reduce pollution of our water, land, and air while working on existing problems by assisting with both cleanup and disposal of pollution. Much like the Egyptians, Romans, and Mayans, who built civilizations long ago, the continued success of our civilization relies more than ever on inventive people.

These people build and maintain the sophisticated environment that we live in while designing and continually improving the quality of life.


Civil engineering is defined by The American Society of Civil Engineers as:

"the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and physical sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize economically the materials and forces of nature for the progressive well-being of man."

Civil engineering is centered on building the infrastructure of the world and is considered to be a people-serving profession. Traditionally, civil engineering is broken into subdisciplines that include environmental engineering, materials engineering, geotechnical engineering, transportation engineering, construction engineering, water resources engineering, structural engineering, and coastal engineering.

Civil engineering is one of the oldest disciplines of engineering (only military engineering has a longer history), and it was defined to identify the difference between military and nonmilitary engineering. This division between the two types of engineering was believed to have begun in 18th century France. All forms of engineering that were not military were placed under the civil engineering designation.

Maintenance of the natural and physically constructed environment, which includes waterways, canals, dams, bridges, tunnels, and buildings are all part of civil engineering. Modern-world miracles that challenge explanation, like the Chunnel, the artificial islands of Dubai, or even the act of keeping Venice from sinking, were all made possible because of civil engineering. Hoover Dam is another amazing engineering example at 700 feet high, 1200 feet long, with a base of 660 feet thick and the top at 45 feet thick. On the lake side of the dam, the water is 500 feet deep, and it holds back over 10 trillion gallons, which is enough to cover the State of Connecticut with 10 feet of water.

the resource

The books Javier Builds a Bridge, Yi Min's Great Wall, and Suman Crosses the Karnali River all have a central theme relating to civil engineering and improving the quality of life for others. These books introduce concepts like geotechnical engineering, material engineering, and civil engineering, which deals with landscapes, the construction of walls, and designing bridges.

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Civil Engineering and Structures


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